Categories: "Flesh"


by Don  

If you look up the word котлета in some Russian-English dictionaries, you will find the word cutlet as a translation. If you do, take your black pen and cross that line of the dictionary out. In modern American English a cutlet is a piece of meat, but it is NEVER ground meat.¹ In Russian котлета means a patty of ground meat.

You can have all sorts of ground meat patties, of course, from all sorts of animals:

котлеты из говядины hamburger patties
lit. patties of beef
котлеты из курицы chicken patties
lit. patties of chicken
котлеты из рыбы fish patties²
lit. patties of fish

Ground meat patties are very common in Russian cafeterias and on the table in Russian homes. Here are some sample sentences:

— На каком масле лучше жарить котлеты?
— Если мясо достаточно жирное, то не нужно никакого масла.
“What kind of oil is it best to fry meat patties in?”
“If the meat is fatty enough, you don't need any oil.”
Мама всегда добавляет чеснок, лук, соль и перец в фарш для котлет. Mom always addes garlic, onion, salt and pepper to ground meat patties.
— Ты любишь котлеты?
— Нет, я мясо не ем.
— А рыбные котлеты?
— Ну, да, против рыбных котлет я ничего не имею.
“Do you like ground [meat] patties?”
“No, I don't eat meat.”
“What if they are made from fish?”
“Well, yes, I don't have anything against fish patties.”
— Я сделал американский сэндвич из говяжей котлеты и двух тостов.
— Какой ты невежда. Это называется «гамбургер».
“I made an American sandwich with a beef patty and two pieces of toasted bread.”
“You are such an ignoramus. That's called a ‘hamburger’.”

¹ If you look at certain dictionaries, e.g. the current definition of cutlet at (mirror) includes something like “a flat croquette.” That is not a current meaning of the word in the US.

² Although “fish patties” is a perfectly grammatical phrase in English, I don't think I've ever had a fish patty in the US in my entire life. The phrase sounds bizarre to the average American ear.


by Don  

Sometimes a word just sounds so funny that you laugh out loud the first time you hear it, and one of those words for me was фрикаделька, which means meatball. Why is it funny? I suppose it reminds me of words like roley-poley or higgledy-piggledy. In fact when I first heard it, I was sure it must have come from some kind of child's poem. I was wrong. Fasmer says that it was borrowed from German Frikadelle or French fricadelle, which originally came from Italian frittadella, meaning "fried in a pan." Despite the fact that the word in Italian meant 'fried,' фрикадельки in Russia aren't fried in a pan, but rather boiled in some kind of broth. Here's how it declines:


Although you usually encounter the word in the plural, it is also possible to find it in the singular. There is also a non-diminutive form фрикадель, although I haven't heard it in common speech.

Фрикадельки can be made of the flesh of pretty well any animal. When you are specifying what kind of meatballs they are, usually you use the preposition из followed by the genitive case of the type of meat. The four types I have encountered most often this summer are listed below. (I'll explain why I added Google hits in a moment.)

Google hits
chickenфрикадельки из курицы59,200
beefфрикадельки из говядины37,600
fishфрикадельки из рыбы38,400
porkфрикадельки из свинины21,100

Sometimes you also hear the word фрикадельки preceded by an adjective to indicate the type of meat. I was curious which construction was more common, so I ran a Google hit comparison (2010-07-18) to determine that. Making grammatical judgments by a Google hit count is not a reliable way to understand the intricacies of grammar, but for what it's worth, it looks like the «из» construction is more common than the adjectival construction:

Google hits
chickenкуриные фрикадельки11,500
beefговяжьи фрикадельки1,440
fishрыбные фрикадельки20,800
porkсвиные фрикадельки2,070

My favorite фрикадельки at the moment are the курино-говяжьи фрикадельки 'chicken and beef meatballs' served at the Трали-Вали dining room at ТГГПУ. Oddly enough, I don't get any hits on that phrase at all on Google, so perhaps they are a newer type of фрикадельки.

Here are some sample sentences with the word фрикадельки:

Я вчера сделала двести фрикаделек из говяжьего фарша. Yesterday I made two hundred ground beef meatballs.
— Какой у нас суп сегодня?
— Рассольник с фрикадельками.
— Правда? Дайте две порции. Я рассольник обожаю.
"What soup do we have today?"
"Pickle soup with meatballs."
"Really? Two servings, please. I adore pickle soup."
На гарнир к фрикаделькам можно подать картофель, рассыпчатый рис, кашу, макаронные изделия, отварные овощи, салат из сырых овощей. (adapted from this source) As a side dish for meatballs you can serve potatoes, rice, boiled grain dishes, pasta, boiled vegetables, or a raw vegetable salad.
Мексиканские повары приготовили самую большую фрикадельку в мире весом почти 50 килограммов. (adapted from this source) Mexican chefs have made the world's largest meatball, weighing nearly 50 kilos.


by Don  

Some years ago I read a book entitled “Scandinavian Humor and Other Myths,” which had the following insight: every ethnic group has some food to which it is irrationally attached. In the case of Scandinavians it is lutefisk. The Scots revel in abominable haggis, and the Mexicans in menudo.

For the Russians that food is сало. No comestible could be more perfectly designed to arouse fear and loathing in American hearts. It is essentially a chunk of fat from the back or belly of a pig. The сало may be smoke-cured, brine-cured, or salted. You can then eat it raw, or it can be chopped up small, fried, and served as a condiment. The first time that I had it, it was simply served raw in little white chunks on a plate, and I was incredibly grateful that my host had some Bulgarian sauce to pour on it, otherwise I don't think I could have kept it down. And if you take a slice of it and put it on some rye bread that has been rubbed with garlic, it is the perfect accompaniment to shots of vodka (source). Sometimes it is sprinkled with black pepper to make it pretty:

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Doesn't that look yummy? A marvelous article on сало can be found at, which lets us know that сало won't make us fat or clog our arteries and really should be consumed with hooch. And if you read Ukrainian, don't miss out on the Salo Lovers Club.

Here are some sample sentences.

Я люблю пожарить кусочки сала и есть их на хлебе с маслом. I love to fry up pieces of fatback and eat them on bread with butter.
— Мне холодно.
— Это потому, что ты такая худенькая. Тебе надо сало есть. Ты будешь здоровее и не будешь чувствовать холода.
“I'm cold.”
“That's because you are so skinny. You need to eat fatback. You'll be healthier and won't feel the cold.”
— Ты слышал, что одесский завод производит сало в шоколаде?
— Слышал, но в действительности это лишь карамель с привкусом сала, а не настоящее сало.
“Did you hear that a factory in Odessa produces fatbook covered with chocolate?”
“I did, but really it is only caramel with some fatback flavoring, not real fatback.”
— Ой, как я пьян!
— Это потому, что не умеешь пить. Между рюмками надо закусывать хлебом с салом. Таким образом пьют здоровые люди.
“Oh, I am so drunk!”
“That's because you don't know how to drink right. Between shots you have to eat bread and fatback. That's how healthy people drink.”


by Don  

The other day an anonymous querent wondered about the correct way to say “Thanks for the salmon!” The answer is: that depends.

If you mean that you are grateful for an entire salmon, then the word you want is a masculine word ending in a soft sign: лосось. If you mean that you are grateful for a filet of the fish which you intend to consume as food, then the word you want is a feminine word: лососина. Thus:

Спасибо за лосося. Thanks for the [whole] salmon.
Спасибо за лососину. Thanks for the salmon [flesh].

Actually лосось can also mean simply the flesh of the animal, but every once in a while you will meet some pedant who will want you to distinguish the two words.

In the US one associates salmon particularly with the the states of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon. In Russia Камчатка is the major нерестилище of salmon. A нерестилище “spawning ground” is a place where fish lay their eggs.